"This is by far the most significant international attempt to reduce environmental noise impact that there has ever been,” says Dr Mike Goldsmith, previously of Keele University in the UK, who led Dreamsys, a three-year project for the British government to build low-cost measurement systems into noise maps based on reality, not prediction. They were produced using figures from arrays of low-cost microphones placed around urban areas rather than the traffic flow and flight timetable data previously used in the UK.
“Historically there have been two trends which are relevant here," adds Dr Goldsmith, whose book Discord: The Story of Noise, is published late September. "One is the use of zoning to restrict areas affected by noise and to define quiet areas on different scales. The other is the slow but steady development of the perception by individuals that they have a right not to be exposed to significant noise."
Not all those in the field are working to turn down the volume. Sounds ability to change behavior can also be used in a positive way.
Canadian transport managers were the first to combat vandalism and other anti-social behaviour by playing classical music at remote stations in order to deter teenage gangs. The tactic has been used by transport and supermarket managers in the UK.
Dr Harry Witchel, an expert on physiology and acoustics, and lecturer at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School in the UK, has experimented with playing relaxing music in a lively clubbing district in Brighton in an attempt to dampen the raucous atmosphere on Saturday nights. Although his efforts have so far proved inconclusive, he believes "soundscape" design can be used to change behaviour.
“Soundscapes are about making the sound appropriate for the space, and the people and animals that share the space," he says. "Some spaces should ideally be peaceful, while other spaces should be vibrant.
Dr Witchel is working with Soundscapes of European Cities and Landscapes, an EU-funded project that promotes the view that managing noise should not be just about reducing sound levels. His book You Are What You Hear, published last year, seeks to answer tricky questions such as why some prefer Beethoven and others rap, why aggressive young men in cars play their music so loud and why music can enhance sexual pleasure.
Another proponent of soundscaping is Martyn Ware, founder member and keyboard player of the pop group Heaven 17. When he is not touring, he runs the Illustrious Company, a 3D sound installation company. He turned London's Millennium Bridge into a 3D sound system during the Olympics in a project called Tales From The Bridge.
Ware has also been working with the Noise Abatement Society on pilot schemes involving creating immersive, calming soundscapes in troublesome urban areas. However he does not believe all the problems caused by noise can be solved by soundscaping.
"I'm not sure that overall it's possible to do so. However, with intelligent and considerate design as well as sensitively curated urban sound curation, the negative effects can be ameliorated. I think we need to acknowledge the multiplicity and complexity of the soundscapes we encounter daily, and look at ways of changing them for the better."
If the efforts of campaigners, politicians, businesses and artists to re-introduce some peace and quiet to our lives are successful, Andrew Flintham will perhaps one day be able to complete his mission to record another uninterrupted dawn chorus.
“There is probably a dawn chorus somewhere in the UK, but I don’t know where it is, and even then it probably doesn’t last very long," he says. "Nature’s natural relaxant is birdsong and it’s something I’d really like to hear again without any interference.”